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Columbia University Digital Knowledge Ventures The Architecture and Development of New York City with Andrew S. Dolkart
image The Public Realm Expansion of the Public Realm
Wedding the Public and Private
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Expansion of the Public Realm
Wedding the Public and Private
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This is the period when it is the institutional realm that is really expanding in New York at an enormous rate. And some of this was private institutions, and some of the expansion was on institutions that were a blend of public and private investment.

Many of New York's great institutions—the New York Public Library, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the American Museum of Natural History—are public-private partnerships where the city was responsible for paying for the construction of the buildings, but all of the material that's inside these city-owned buildings is owned by private foundations, and so that you have this wedding of the public and the private to create great institutions.

In the late nineteenth century and the first years of the twentieth century, these institutions were expanding at an enormous rate. New Yorkers, especially well-educated and wealthy New Yorkers, who saw that they were taking Western civilization into the future wanted to recreate the great European cities that they had seen. Many of these wealthy Americans had traveled, they had been to London and Paris and Rome and other European cities, and when they visited these European cities what was it that they saw and visited?

Well, they saw great museums and great libraries and great botanical gardens and great zoos and great opera houses, and they were determined that New York would be a great institutional city and that they could recreate these great cultural institutions of Europe in New York. And so they began to either establish or pay for the expansion of institutions in New York.

And between the late 1880s and the early twentieth century, you have the establishment of the New York Public Library and the construction of its spectacular building on Fifth Avenue and Forty-second Street. The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the American Museum of Natural History, which were relatively small institutions, expand enormously. You have the expansion of not one but three great university campuses. Columbia, New York University, and the City College of New York all built enormous new institutions. The New York Botanical Gardens and the Bronx Zoo are established. The Brooklyn Museum expands enormously, and the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens is established.


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